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Customer Review

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Introduction to Poetry and Poetic Form, June 9, 2000
This review is from: Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry (9th Edition) (Paperback)
I came across an early edition of Sound and Sense a few years ago. At first glance the slighty yellowed text appeared foreboding with chapters like denotation and connotation, imagery, figurative lanaguage, allusion, tone, rhythm and meter, sound and meaning, and so forth. I found it hard to imagine a less lifeless approach to poetry. However, the text did seem to contain a sizeable anthology as an appendix and poetry was abundant in every chapter. I reasoned that I could skip the poetic structure discussions and simply read the poetry.

But from the beginning I found Perrine's style and approach to be stimulating, rather than analytical. Throughout we are immersed in poetry, great poetry, familiar poetry, unfamiliar poetry. Perrine argues that poetry needs to be read and reread carefully for full understanding and appreciation. We need to learn to think about poetry with some seriousness, but not in a cold, calculating manner. We approach new poetry with our eyes and ears open, our senses alive.

Yes, as other reviewers point out, Sound and Sense is structured and does methodically explore poetic forms in some detail. But this is not a drawback. It is actually an aid to understanding. Perrine manages to achieve his instructional objective without diluting his central message: poetry is to be enjoyed. He never forgets that his subject is poetry, and not poetic form and structure.

I have since learned that Perrine's text is still in use today, nearly fifty years after publication of the first edition. (See recent 10th edition 0155073966, June 8, 2000.) How can that be? Few textbooks achieve ten printings, much less ten editions. Even the title change signifies respect; it is no longer simply Sound and Sense, it is "Perrine's Sound and Sense".

I highly recommend Perine's text to anyone willing to invest a little time and study to poetry. The return will be worthwhile. I give Sound and Sense five stars.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 15, 2007 8:43:55 AM PDT
Mr Wischmeyer's review is right on the money. I have been reading one edition or another of Sound and Sense, beginning with the first edition, for about 45 years. I have never found a better handbook for the formal study of poetry.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2007 3:34:57 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 2, 2007 3:18:11 PM PDT
Mr. Nunan: I was lucky to find Sound and Sense at just the right time. I had not taken any poetry classes in college, but in recent years I started reading the little Dover thrift editions, poetry by Keats, Burns, Housman, Eliot, Milton - whatever I could find. I was developing a greater appreciation for poetry, but my foundation was rather shallow.

Perrine's text proved to be exactly what I needed. I now began to understand poetry in a more substantial manner, much like the way others might come to appreciate mathematics long after leaving school.

Later, John Ciardi's How Does a Poem Mean also proved to be quite helpful, and Palgrave's Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language provided me with a good overview of English poetry. Thanks for your comments.

Posted on Mar 17, 2010 11:27:17 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 17, 2010 11:27:53 PM PDT
Corey French says:
I think this review--and others' experience with Perrine's text--demonstrates that the trendy and new might not necessarily be the best. Perrine's work comes from a time when real criticism was being done, a time when the critics took poems seriously. In a postmodern critical landscape in which poems are subjected to ideological interventions and ceaseless historicizing, Perrine is a breath of fresh air. Learning to read poetry consists in just that: learning to read poetry. I'll put a student of Perrine up against a student of the latest, most fashionable theorist any day.

If you love Perrine, you might also be interested in another seminal work from the age of sensible criticism:
Understanding Poetry
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